The famous "Yarovaya package" was signed by the president on July 6, 2016, and evoked a wave of hype in the media. But now, when the Telegram team led by Pavel Durov instantly implements solutions inside the messenger, which for the second day do not allow Roskomnadzor to block Telegram, few people may think that the prequels of these events germinated almost two years ago.
The package of "anti-terrorist" bills introduced amendments to the Federal Law "On Counteracting Terrorism" and certain legislative acts "on the establishment of additional measures to counter terrorism and ensure public safety." The bills also imposed amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation including criminal penalties for not reporting crimes and allowing courts to pass judgment based on certain articles for suspects from the age of 14. The amendments touched even the regulation of religious missionary activities, but the greatest attention at that time was paid to new requirements imposed on telecom operators and internet providers. According to the law on data storage of July 1, 2018, cellular operators (MTS, Megafon, Beeline, and others) are required to store the voice information of subscribers for six months, and from October 1 to save electronic messages for three months. Internet resources included in the register of information dissemination organizers on the Internet (Telegram entered this list on June 28, 2017) will also have to store user traffic for six months. All this data must be provided to law enforcement agencies upon request.
The second change, which is also the progenitor of today's ban, concerns data encryption. Internet services that provide the ability to exchange encrypted data are now required to transmit decryption keys upon request of the FSB. Otherwise, they face a large fine. On October 16, the Moscow Meshchansky Court fined Telegram 800,000 rubles for not having provided the FSB with the decryption keys for access to users' correspondences.
The first talk of blocking Telegram took place in June last year and practically copied today's dialog except for the outcome. On his page in VKontakte, Pavel Durov said that the head of Roskomnadzor demanded Telegram to grant special services access to the decryption keys that would allow them to decrypt user messages in order to combat terrorism. The founder of VKontakte and CEO of Telegram stated that "this requirement not only contradicts the 23rd Article of the Constitution of the Russian Federation on the right to confidentiality of correspondence but also demonstrates ignorance of how communication is encrypted in 2017." Just like now, he claimed that it was technically impossible to implement it with the terminal encryption system that Telegram had applied, and which was then implemented by many popular instant messengers, including WhatsApp, Viber, and Facebook Messenger, ". . . the messenger owners do not and cannot possess 'decryption keys.' These keys are stored only on the devices of the users themselves," Durov wrote.
"By agreeing to be entered into the register, we proceed from the truthfulness of the statement of the head of Roskomnadzor ('And that’s that') and do not assume any additional obligations," Durov said, referring to Zharov's statement, and predicted ". . . I am sure of one thing: if Telegram is really blocked in Russia, it will not happen because of our refusal to provide data about our company."
"Telegram started working in the legal field of the Russian Federation," the head of Roskomnadzor commented on adding Telegram to the register of information dissemination organizers. On September 27, Durov said that "because of the failure to comply with the anti-constitutional Law of Yarovaya, the FSB is forming administrative protocols [against Telegram], which, according to our lawyers, will inevitably lead to litigation." The next day in his channel in Telegram, Durov published a post entitled "Why lawsuits against us in Iran and Russia do not matter," and in September, a criminal case against Pavel Durov was opened in Iran. "I hope one day it will be possible to open our offices in Iran and Russia (and offices of other IT companies). Until then, we will continue to provide a service of safe communication to users of these markets from places where they respect freedom," Durov wrote on Telegram. "The absence of the opportunity to visit Russia from time to time is more painful for me than non-entry into Iran, primarily because of my parents," Pavel Durov said at the time, but on behalf of the Telegram team noted "We are always ready to break both personal and business ties with such countries, so they may never have any leverage against us."
On the day when Telegram was fined 800,000 rubles for not providing the FSB with access to the correspondence of users, Durov announced on his VK page that Telegram was preparing to select a team of lawyers who would appeal the court's decision on the lawsuit of the FSB and everyone could offer their services to the company by writing to the specified email. The next day, Durov said that he accepted the offer of Pavel Chikov, the head of the international human rights organization "Agora."
To be continued . . .